The Premier League has agreed black lives will be relevant next week. Or at least, it has decreed – at the urging of some team presidents – that the term “Black Lives Matter” will be carried on players’ jerseys. Instead of their initials, for the first round of fixtures as the season begins next week. This hasn’t officially determined that black lives should matter for the remainder of the season, or after next week. But be assured it will meet with key stakeholders and make an announcement at the right time.
Black Lives matter
Aside from all the flippancy, it increasingly be instructive to mark the measures that took us to this stage. The shirt messages are a laughably piffling gesture in and of themselves: a bit of fabric stitched onto another piece of fabric, a show of support with emphasis on the former rather than the latter. But it’s a move that would already have been inconceivable only a few years earlier; maybe only a few weeks ago, before the killing of George Floyd, a surge of justified rage shook up the very theories and orthodoxies in which our culture was founded. Causing us all – including sport – to look at ourselves.
This is no sudden wake-up. It could sound a little like that from inside the walled privilege universe where most of us live. But for many of the players and supporters who are voicing out now. This is merely the vocalization of emotions and opinions that have been stealing under the surface for a while. They kept in place by fear of retaliation, by fear of outrage, by a culture and a collective debate that has long cast anti-bigotry, not bigotry, as the main destructive force.
Even so, this is a moment of genuine potential and one that therefore needs to go far beyond talking. For the first time , people who are not interested in tackling racial inequalities are faced with its effects. A generation that has long respected Churchill as an emancipator. Also Geoffrey Boycott as the true cricket leader and Fawlty Towers’ The Germans episode as the peak of British satire is seeing its idols winding from its pedestals and offering a dunking.